Updated Apr 11, 2022 - COVID

Philadelphia to reinstate mask mandate

Photo: Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Philadelphia announced Monday that it would reinstate its citywide mask mandate beginning April 18 due to rising COVID cases.

Why it matters: With the decision, the city will become one of the only major American localities to require masks in public.

What's happening: Rising COVID case counts had fueled speculation that the city could move to the second tier of its COVID response system — "Mask Precautions" — as the Inquirer reported last week.

  • The "Mask Precautions" tier means that two or more of the following conditions are true in the city: average new cases per day are less than 225, hospitalizations are less than 10 and cases have increased by more than 50% in the previous 10 days.

Between the lines: The city's decision is at odds with the CDC, which currently does not recommend mandated masking for Philadelphia.

  • The CDC's assessment takes in several factors, including low community spread, high levels of vaccination and population immunity, and reductions in hospitalizations and deaths.

What they're saying: The Omicron subvariant BA.2 is believed to be driving the current spike in cases in the city, Philadelphia Health commissioner Cheryl Bettigole said during a virtual news conference on Monday.

  • "This looks like we may be at the start of a new COVID wave, like Europe just saw," she said.

Meanwhile, the move is drawing some backlash, including from a major restaurant and lodging industry group in the state.

  • Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association (PRLA) spokesperson Ben Fileccia called the mandate a "major blow" to small businesses.
  • "While the rest of the Commonwealth has moved forward navigating life with COVID, Philadelphia has stepped back by imposing another mandate and expecting it to be enforced by businesses and their employees," he said in a statement.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to add comment from Philadelphia Health commissioner Cheryl Bettigole and the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association.

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